Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Trail Blazers following unfortunate court trend

The Portland Trail Blazers announced last month they’ll have a new court design next season determined by a fan vote. The winning design won’t be revealed until October but, judging by the three finalists, it will be flawed.

The finalists for the Blazers' court design contest
There is great control over the look of the playing surface in the NBA, with colour, pattern, and graphics possibilities that don’t exist in other sports. With these possibilities comes great variance in the look of the playing surface. NBA arenas don’t offer glimpses of a city skyline or mountain range in the background and they generally have the same basic look, so the court is largely relied upon to provide differentiation.

Getting the floor right is both possible and worthwhile.

But there are significant issues with current designs around the NBA. The two-toned wood look is popular – and featured in the Blazers’ finalist designs – but it creates a clash. Even if one of the tones is a good choice, it’s undone by the inferior tone. It also looks like it exists just for the sake of difference. Even relegating the second tone to the out-of-bounds area doesn’t work.

Solid keys are another issue represented in Portland’s finalist designs. Keys with strips of contrasting colour on the edges have been forsaken by some teams for the solid option. The coloured sides soften the key and add interest. Although the solid colour keys are generally superior to the solid plain keys, both are too stark.

Having no solid chunks of colour, not even out of bounds, doesn’t look right, as the Houston Rockets’ floor shows. Even if the two-tone situation and Houston’s logo and word mark were improved upon, going without any colour chunks is pushing it on the plainness front.

There’s also problems at centre court, with teams either choosing a secondary logo when the primary would be superior, or opting for a word mark when a logo would be better.

The baseline word marks can have a significant influence on the success or failure of a floor. The font can be random, entirely separate from the team’s other word marks, and still enhance the court. The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks provide two examples where the font doesn’t match what’s on their jerseys but does spruce up their home court.

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